日本基督教団 The United Church of Christ in Japan

The Church as “Free Space”: A Haven for Youth Who Choose Seclusion


by Kurahashi Tsuyoshi, pastor Nishi Ogura Megumi Church, Kyoto District

Nishi Ogura Megumi Church is a small church in the city of Uji, near Kyoto city. Every Monday afternoon a group of young people gather there. It is hard to call them a robust group because it is with great effort that each of them gathers the courage, as well as physical and emotional energy, to come.


These are youth who often find it difficult to leave their rooms, let alone their homes. But when there is that desire to get out—even for a brief period of time—is there a haven where they can feel safe to go? Is there a haven with staff or companions who can understand the distress they feel? With those questions in mind, our church has opened a small “free space” (haven) for these youth, called “Oyasumi” (rest).


It began when my own child became reclusive. There is no special medication to deal with this, and as a parent, I could not restrain my impatience to do something. Not just the reclusive individual but also the parent/guardian wants to find a space for relief. Since starting that search, I have met countless youth who are doing their best while struggling with their reclusiveness.


I would like to share with you a special message these young people have entrusted to me.

One youth, starting with truancy from school, went down the path to full seclusion. He was willing to talk with me about his recollections of that time in his life. “It was becoming increasingly stressful for me to go to school. I told my parents about it, but they forced me go. In the midst of this I began to feel strongly that there was no trust from my parents, that they were not on my side, and that there was no one to protect me.”


Another youth told me, “One of the painful things now is that I cannot trust others. In order to be accepted by my parents, I did my best from the time I was little to be a “good boy.” It is not an exaggeration to say that it was like walking a tightrope. Every day I lived with the uncertainty and fear of falling from a very thin rope as I struggled to keep my balance. To be honest, I was exhausted.” There was one youth who had been bullied and severely injured. For seven years, he hardly ever left his home. When people become the source of fear, the hurdle to get outside becomes higher. I was told this as well: “In no way do I think I am being lazy. However, I am completely different from my parents or the adults around me. My personality and the things I can do are also different. However, my parents often tell me that there is no reason that I cannot do what they were able to do. They tell me that the world we live in is not easy and that I need to try harder. But for me, I am doing all I can just to live in the present.”


The leading causes of death for Japanese people are cancer, heart disease, and brain disorders. However, for the age group of 20 to 39, suicide is number one, and for the age group of 15 to 19, it is number two. In current society, the mention of the word hikikomori (a recluse who avoids the public) creates a strong negative image. What these youth hear most often are words like “lazy,” “spoiled,” and “too weak.” These words reflect prejudice and a lack of understanding. Rather, these young people are conscientiously trying their best to live (in extremely challenging conditions) and seriously thinking about what it means to live. Undoubtedly, these young people have delicate feelings that are easily hurt. However, they know deep pain that has caused them to become individuals who possess the important qualities of “kindness” and “thoughtfulness.”


First, we must learn to accept these young people as they are: individuals who are in situations in which they feel their only alternative is to seek isolation, while at the same time they are seeking a place of rest for their spirits. I feel that their only chance for a fresh start begins with an affirmation—letting them know that they are accepted as they are. We are all special individuals loved by God, and fresh starts come from that awareness. Trying to walk with young people who tend to seek isolation is a difficult task for us as a small church. However, support from churches as well as links with local government and community agencies are gradually making it possible for us to take small steps with these youth.


Finally, let me leave you with the voice of these young people who come to us for haven. “I wish there were some places closer.” There are neighborhood youth (who come to our church), but many come from long distances. It is not difficult to imagine the extreme stress felt by a young person who must leave his or her home to go to a different neighborhood when that person is already having difficulty building relationships. I cannot help but hope that “space” can be made available for these young people in local communities by churches and other organizations.

I believe that young people who have found a place of rest and are given opportunities and time to interact with people in trustful relationships can restart their personal journeys. It is my fervent hope and prayer that the church can become a “free space”—a haven—where these youth can be accepted just as they are. (Tr. JS)


From Shinto no Tomo (Believers’ Friend)

November 2013 issue

教 会がフリースペースーひきこもりの青年達の「居場所」

倉 橋 剛 西小倉めぐみ教会牧師

西小倉めぐみ教会は京都の宇治市にある小さな教会です。毎週月曜日の午後、ここに何人かの青年たちが集まってきます。元気にとは言え ず、本当に何とか体調を整え、たくさんの勇気を振りしぼってやってきます。

家から、中には部屋からも出ることが難しいひきこもりの青年たちが、たとえわずかな時間でも家から一歩外に出たいと思ったときに安心 して行ける「居場所」があれば……。 一人ひとりが抱えているしんどさを少しでも理解してくれる仲間やスタッフのいる居場所があれば……。 そんな思いで現在小さな居場所、フリースペース「おやすみ」を教会は開いています。

きっかけは私自身の子どもがひきこもりになったことです。解決の特効薬はないのに、親である自分は焦りを抑えられませんでした。ひき こもる当人ばかりでなく、そんな保護者にとっても「ほっ」とできるスペースをと願って始めました。以後、しんどさを抱えながらも精一 杯の日々を送っている青年たちとの出会いを多く与えられてきました。


不登校から、そのままひきこもってしまったある青年は、そのころのことを振り返ってこう話してくれました。「ものすごく学校に行くこ とがしんどくなって、親にその思いを伝えたのに、学校に行くことを強いられた。そんなことの繰り返しの中で、だんだん自分は親から信 用されていないんだ、親は味方ではないんだ、守ってくれる人ではないんだと、子ども心にも強く思わされた」。

また別の青年は「今、苦しいことの一つは、他人を信用できないこと。親に認められるために、小さいころから自分なりに一生懸命良い子 になろうと努力してきた。オーバーな表現ではなく、毎日が綱渡りをしているような感じ。細い一本の不安定な綱の上で必死でバランスを 取りながら、いつ転落するかわからない、そんな恐怖感と不安感を覚える毎日を過ごしてきた。正直、もう疲れた」と言います。

学校でいじめられ、ズタズタに傷ついた青年もいます。彼は丸七年間、ほとんど外へ出られなくなっていたとのことです。人が怖くなって しまうと、外へ出るハードルはますます高くなってしまうのです。

こんな声も聞きました。「怠けようなんて思っていないよ。でも僕は親やまわりの大人と全く別の人格を持っている人間なんだ。性格も、 持っているものも違う。それなのに親によく言われるのは、俺たち親にできたことがおまえにできないわけがない。そんなに世の中甘くな いぞ、もっと頑張れ、ということ。でも今は、生きることが精一杯なんだ」。

日本人の死因の上位は、ガンや心疾患、脳疾患です。しかし二十~三十九歳では自死が一位、十五~十九歳でも二位であることをご存じで しょうか。

今の社会の中では、「ひきこもり」というだけで強いマイナスのイメージで見られます。彼らへの言葉で一番多いのは、「さぼってる、甘 えてる、弱すぎる」です。これは大きな偏見と誤解です。彼らは今を精一杯生き、「生きる」ということの意味を真剣に考えている真面目 な青年たちなのです。

確かにデリケートな傷つきやすい心を持っているでしょう。でも、痛みを知っている彼らは、人間としての大切な「優しさや、思いやりの 心」も持っています。

まずは、ひきこもらざるを得ない状態の中で心の休養を取ろうとしている青年のありのままの姿を受け止めること、「あなたはあなたのま までいいんですよ」と、その存在を丸ごと受け止めることから、初めて再出発のスタートが切れるような気がします。私たちがすでに、大 切な存在として神さまに愛されている、その事実の上に立ってのスタートです。

ひきこもりがちな青年たちと共に歩むことは、小さな教会の小さな働きだけでは困難があります。さまざまな教会からの支援、祈り、また 行政や地域との連携があってようやく一歩一歩、歩んでいる状況です。

最後に、今、「おやすみ」に来ている青年たちの声は、「近くに居場所がもっとあったらなあ」です。近所の人もいますが、遠方の人が多 いのです。人間関係を築いていくことがとても苦手という青年がほとんどで、家から出ると極度に緊張する人が多く、遠い居場所まで来る 大変さは十分想像できます。そうした青年たちが安心して行けるスペースが、彼らの近くにある教会も含め、いろいろな場所に備わってい たらと願わずにはおられません。

 ゆっくりと心を休めることがで きた青年たちは、信頼できる人との出会いを時間をかけて築いていく中で、きっと自分らしく歩み出せるようになると信じています。教会が 「ありのままの彼らを受け入れる真の居場所・フリースペース」になれたらと、心から願い、祈っています。(信徒の友11月号より)

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